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    Hiring Remotely Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Globally - Manjuri Sinha from OLX Group

    Episode 43 full coverIn this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Manjuri Sinha, Head of Talent Acquisition for Technology at the OLX Group goes over how her team has expanded their talent pool to meet the changing needs of the market. She goes over her data collection process to determine the best locations for hires, in different cities, and the importance of talent acquisition involvement in workforce planning.


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    Max: Hello, and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. Today I'd like to welcome on the show, Manjuri Sinha. Manjuri is the Head of Talent Acquisition for Technology for the OLX Group. Thanks for joining Manjuri. 

     

    Manjuri: Happy to be here. 

     

    Max: Manjuri is dialing in from Berlin. One of my favorite cities in the world.

    And over the last few years, Berlin has become a tech hub, certainly in the startup space. But I think also beyond which is how the OLX group ended up setting up shop in Berlin. You were telling me?

     

    Manjuri: Absolutely max. So I think this was pretty much the reason, the talent market.

     

    So  let me also give a little bit of context on what OLX is. We are a classified platform my lovely friends  in Germany, you can, maybe relate to it with EBA, Klein and Diagon. That's something for the emerging market. So classifieds for a resale of cars, a resale of anything. If you talk to someone in Poland they literally tell you that from their phone to their cupboards, to their cars, to the apartments they have sold or purchased on OLX platforms.

     

    Of course we have different brands that front-end us but  that's why exist.

     

    Yeah, across countries and being in Berlin is definitely due to the tech talent market that we have. And Berlin is our OLX Europe's tech hub. And in terms of usage we pretty much you know, have more than 20 brands.

    Also we have around 300 million active users. As well as you see, the number of people is 10,000+ a strong employee sprint. And of course, we’re part of the overall process group. Which is one of the biggest investment companies in the world 

     

    Max: I imagine that building marketplaces in all of these emerging markets means you need to have teams everywhere, all around the globe, right.

    And that you want to have designers, product managers, marketers. Living in each of the markets you serve is that part of your remit or you're purely focused on the tech, which is more centralized perhaps?

     

    Manjuri: Yeah. So  my remit is product, data, and technology.

     

    So yes. All that you mentioned actually falls in that bucket. So designers, UX, researchers technology. When I say technology it's engineering. And data is everything to do with data science data analytics, as well as data engineering. So this is the world, and this is the gamut. Of course, we also have the offline part of the business where we have, you know, car inspectors and people who really look at when you do the, you know, inspection of a car before it's resold, et cetera, et cetera. 

     

    So that's another world, warehouses, car inspectors, et cetera. So yes, and we do need to have presence in our markets, for sure. So even our tech hubs are distributed accordingly, Max. We have a huge presence in Poland, in Portugal, which are bigger markets as well.

     

    Now we have stepped up on our building up of a tech hub in Romania and Ukraine. That's what we are doing at the moment. Super busy. India is a major tech hub in the Northern part of the country. We have a home office as well. And then we have Latin America where we have tech teams based in Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina.

     

    Max: Do you find that hiring managers have moved past  the reflex, that habit of associating a job with a location and that now it's you know, they're not thinking that way or I mean, how fast are we moving in the other direction where everybody's remote and you can hire anywhere.

     

    Is it moving fast and as fast as you'd like? Or would you actually, maybe you prefer to go back to a localized hubs?  What's your position on this hire anywhere or hirer somewhere? 

     

    Manjuri: I would still say so there were two parts to your question, Max. One is how do we see hiring managers actually reacting to this?

     

    I think for hiring managers, they need that seat to be filled. That's one of the basic you know, really important things for them. Yes,  they do feel that there should be some proximity to their teams. However, the understanding with most technology teams that we are hearing is either we go remote first.

    That means that you don't have a partial thing, that you have 10 people sitting in the same room and a meeting room. And you have another 10 people sitting in different blocks because that's what is not good for the culture. So if you have a remote first team, everybody should be remote. And if you come together for a workshop, then you commute for that workshop.

     

    But you shouldn't be divided half and half. The second aspect that you asked about hiring anywhere, hiring anywhere is a wish and a luxury because what we have not been able to kind of crack, and I think it's the same with all organizations is insurance, taxation, and so on and so forth. So we do stay close to our hubs.

     

    We do hire remote in Poland. We hire remote in Romania. We hire remote in Portugal, but because we have hubs in those countries, we can. You know, basis that paperwork, et cetera. So I think that's one of the challenges for sure. 

    We see the demands. I mean, I was just looking at a report just yesterday from this organization called Talent International and they were talking about this, I think the second, most important point that all of their survey respondents talked about in changing jobs, what will they consider? Is flexibility.

     

    And this flexibility is around whether they can work remote, whether they can work from home or they can work from anywhere. So this will become, this will come from the pandemic push. And I think the second aspect will be the candidates demanding this also going forward, especially for the tech market, because that's a candidate driven market.

     

    So what we would have to look at flexibility and hybrid ways of working that is definitely here to stay. You might have organizations saying, Hey, you know, it's three days. Come to office two days, work from home. I heard yesterday, Revolut has given a two months option to all employees saying that two months in a year, you can work from anywhere.

     

    So every company is working different working out different ways of keeping their folks happy and keeping their ways of working flexible. And that's the way to go. That's what we will see in the future.

     

    Max: It's moving slower than I anticipated really. I mean, we've been working from anywhere  for pre-crisis and I thought that by now everybody would be this is it. I love it. Yeah, I guess people. With this new cycle are also a little bit tired, and we would like to just kind of turn the page and that means going, the office, they'll do it. 

     

    I found myself actually reminiscing and thinking, wow, I really miss commuting. You know, cause commuting was the time when I would switch off from one world to the next.

     

    But I've learned how to commute while staying indoors. 

     

    Manjuri: Absolutely. You made a very, very correct point, right? We are not what is happening right now. Right. You know, I'm sitting at my living room and at my dining table, you see a fake background behind me, but this is where I am. This is not working from home.

     

    So this is the pandemic push of making me stay at home. Right. That's a very different thing. I don't get to meet those 10 friends that I would love to for the after-work drinks. But within the real world, post pandemic world, working from home  will be different. That's what I can relate to when I was working with Accenture way back.

     

    We used to work from home a lot because of the model. You know, I had colleagues distributed all across the world. So if I had to commute to office, which would be two hours in a car in India, I would rather work from home. And it would suffice because everybody was kind of, you know, co located in different countries, et cetera, et cetera.

     

    But that was working from home. You would work through the day and yet meet your colleagues may be for after work drinks. So the socializing is there. Also in setups where you have children, your children are going to the kindergartens, the children are going to school. So they're not all at home. This situation is not working from home.

     

    So it's a way different situation that we're in. And a lot of that increase as you pointed out. 

     

    Max: Well, how is it different? It's just because it's forced whereas before it felt like an option.

     

    Manjuri: No, because you had a human interaction. And what I crave at the moment is, you know, kind of going back to the office and having those conversations while filling my coffee mug, et cetera.

     

    Because also, because I don't have other human interactions right. Based on the rule, I can only meet one person, another household, et cetera. So I'm not having those social interactions and yeah, that's where it's a little different. 

     

    Max: Yeah. 

     

    I imagined that part of the job that we were talking about, which is influencing the job description, influencing the job, which is an expansion of the traditional job of recruiters and talent acquisition.

     

    Where traditionally you would think the hiring manager describes bullet point by bullet point what they want, all the keywords and off you go that's your spec sheet. She'd go to work, come back to me when you've got 10 resumes or 20 or a hundred. And it's a bit of a one-sided dialogue. And you're trying to move it in the other way.

     

    You're trying to say, we're going to change the type of profiles that we're hiring. We're gonna change where we're sourcing them from. That job, that part of the work has become much harder now that you can't force somebody into a coffee break or a longer conversation.

     

    Manjuri: Absolutely. I mean, I think the rapport building especially, I mean if I, again, take an example here for myself, I joined OLX in 2019, December four months is when I got to literally travel around the world and meet my team as well as meet my stakeholders. But post that everything is on zoom.

     

    Everything is on you know, calls, et cetera. So the rapport building you don't have that. But anyways, when I'm on video, there is a bit of conscious feeling and so on and so forth. But you have to work with it and make do with it. It is what it is and that's okay. That's a challenge for sure.

     

    The influencing part and building that relationship, building that trust takes a bit more time than it would in a face-to-face communication.

     

    Max: It takes a bit more time. Okay. And can you tell me more about the I'm not going to say the mistakes, but the inherent bias that you've managed to eliminate in some of those job descriptions or some of those job specifications.

     

    How have you influenced you and your team have influenced the direction for OLX where they were going to hire a certain type of people and you were able  to change their perception. Can you walk us through an example and some tools that you use? 


    Manjuri: Yeah, absolutely.

     

    Max, I think  that's a very good question. And it is an extension of what I was saying, right. It's typical to build those relationships. And that's where data helps you to make your story along with validating it with data that really helps you. And that's the example that I like to take.

     

    So it is definitely a collective drive. And for OLX we see hiring as a problem for everybody. So it's an ownership for everyone. So I'm partnering with my engineering, leadership person, it's a similar ownership that we have. So that's one, the collaboration is very important.

     

    Second, I think the things that I've learned through my experience, and this is not just OLX. Many a times in a TA function, we take the plans as is. We are, you know, the person we are the team that comes after the workforce planning activity happens. So you take a whole load of roles and saying that, okay, these 200, 300, depending on the organization, or maybe 700,000 people have to be hired by so-and-so date in these locations.

     

    And then you have to chase something which has been planned without your consent, which has been planned without your inputs, et cetera, et cetera. This is one of the biggest mistakes. Most TA professionals and TA teams also make. Also not saying no, or also not going back and saying that, okay, this is maybe something that we need to re-look at.

     

    An example would be we did have a situation where we were kind of struggling to hire talented folks in Lisbon onsite and this where we sat down. First of all, we looked at LinkedIn insights. We looked at what there was definitely, you know, when you're hiring you start getting a hunch.

     

    As a recruiter you hear from candidates, how the market looking like, et cetera. And numbers that we wanted to hire. We needed people coming from really good product companies as well. And of course, if I'm sitting in the Berlin markets, it's a very different scene, but the Lisbon market is still maturing and getting there.

     

    You have a lot of services companies, but the product companies are yet to mature with their seniority, et cetera. So yeah, we couldn't really relocate a lot of people, but we did have to hire and so on and so forth. So we got the data. What does the market say? How has the market responded in the last two, three years?

     

    We looked at other reports from local providers, which also talked about the salary increases, which are, you know, on the lines of 18%, 25% and 35% 

     

    Max: in Portugal?

     

    Manjuri: In Portugal for certain. 

     

    It's a very, very hot destination. 

     

    Manjuri: It is. It is. It's absolutely. I saw a similar trend when we had gone and with our Zalando office in Lisbon and had to actually close it down after some time.

     

    So  that was there. Okay. I can talk about handshakes and talk about experience and so on and so forth. So we collected all the data and say that this is what the data tells us, and it actually tells us that there's excellent talent sitting in Porto. There is talent sitting in Puembra. If we can go remote in Portugal, we can hire all these people.

     

    We can bring them into the pipeline. We can see a bigger pool of talent and we can still hire in Portugal. And this is the discussion that we have with our engineering leadership team. And they were also very upbeat because they actually saw the data. This was not the time when we were talking about our hunches and experiences.

     

    We have actually showing data that if we are looking only at Lisbon, this is a talent pool. This is already what we've sourced. So what next? Right. And then we also talked about, okay, let's look at the other part. One is remote. Second is let's start hiring trainees and grow with them from there.

     

    We don't have a lot of product companies, et cetera. 

     

    Max: And you come from the BPO sector, Manjuri.

     

    You also have that background where you've seen this industry, which went from tier one cities to tier two cities, to tier three cities and now anywhere applied for let's say the more high volume environments.

     

    And now you're, you're saying especially with this remote work or work from home situation. That flexibility that is now global. Everybody should take another look at those second and third tier cities, even if you're hiring for more professional level hires more experienced hires. 

     

    Manjuri: Absolutely. There's definite potential.  There are a lot of you know, people that we've kind of maybe overlooked previously with the talent and  this, and this also helps us Max, in increasing diversity.  We've seen situations where everything goes. I mean, it definitely goes beyond binary gender, but if I just take example of binary gender as well, we've seen situations where women don't move a lot, right.

     

    Because they have responsibilities and  they would rather move countries for their spouse, et cetera. Now, if we say that, hey, move your life from Porto to Lisbon. That might be tough. But if we tell her that. You can stay in Porto and  work for us, remote.  I mean, that's one of the best things again.

     

    So even your diversity aspect, how you can make your pipeline diverse that also gets pushed. If we can look at more markets tier one, tier two, I mean  those steps, right? That's it. I know where this is coming from. It's mostly how we do in India. Look at tier one, tier two, tier three and everything.

     

    Max: Yeah. You don’t want to use that language in Portugal. You’re going to start a civil war.

     

    Manjuri: And I know you can relate to that. But yeah, we used to have, even back in the days with the emphasis with the BPO sector, our voice processes would be front-ended from tier one cities, but our Non-West processes  ere also supported. We used to have a lot of people moving in from different cities.

     

    They're in my roster and coming and really changing, you know, cities, et cetera. So. 

     

    Max: Yeah. In a way, you know, if you're hiring for a sales job or voice job you know, in the customer care world, you want to have that hungry young person that moves to the big city. But if you're hiring someone technical who works on more long tasks and can work in isolation, maybe that person is less likely to move out of the, you know that birthplace, or like you said some demographics or could also be less mobile than others.

     

    Manjuri: Yeah, absolutely. 

     

    Max: Yeah. So I think they've given me and probably anyone who's listening, some ideas on let's look a little bit broader into those cities we haven't looked at for a while. So that's a really great takeaway.  One question that I like to ask  is you Manjuri, to go back to a hiring mistake that you made for your team or for your customers.

     

    And tell us what you've learned from it.

     

    Manjuri: I've made so I would say I. This is actually for my own team. A couple of years ago, I did make a hiring mistake. I would say I was about to make a hiring mistake, and I kept on doing that by not hiring certain people.

    So I had this, you know, this was bias for a very long time. I had to nurture this bias of, Hey, you have to, you know, I'll also, maybe it was conscious, unconscious, personal bias because I had done a lot, strived a lot to get my MBA, et cetera. So when I was looking to hire for a particular role for my team, I was looking at the qualifications.

     

    I was looking at the degrees that the person had accomplished and so and so forth. And I was actually prioritizing candidates in that pipeline who came with an MBA degree. You came with a higher degree of masters, et cetera.  And I was overlooking certain people. Whereas when I came back and realized that, okay, I've interviewed maybe more than 24 people, but somehow they don't, on the functional side, still didn't come close to what we were looking at. And finally, we were slightly about to make a mistake and I was about to make a mistake and maybe hiring someone. I don't know whether that would have been a mistake, but then I looked into my own team, existing team, and then I saw people who were, necessarily did not have those degrees, but they were exceptional performers.

     

    They were exceptional team players. They were people who would go beyond. They were people, like you said, they were hungry to learn. And then I started scaling back then I looked at okay, the resumes that had not been selected, shortlisted, maybe those are the resumes that I would pick up. And then the person that I hired, she was amazing and that was a learning for me. And I also took that learning after that, even in my conversations with hiring managers, that let's not reduce our talent pool by putting four or five degrees requirements and qualifications, because that doesn’t always indicate that  this person will be the highest performer in the team.

     

    Max: Yeah.

     

    Manjuri: That's definitely a learning  that I've had. 

     

    Max: And there's two lessons there, right? One with  the inflation of the requirements. And the second one, look within the team and you were able  to create some internal mobility. 

     

    Manjuri: Exactly. That's definitely max for short.

     

    Max: Great. And well it's been a pleasure. I have tons of more questions, but we'll do it another time and jury.  Thanks for coming on the podcast. 

     

    Manjuri: Thank you. Thank you so much, Max. I really enjoyed this.

     

    Max: That was Manjuri Sinha from, OLX reminding us that if you don't have to come into the office every day, If socializing with your teammates can be summed up to gathering to once a week or so once a month, perhaps it's time to expand the radius of your search and to go look outside of those cities where your offices are and start looking at commuting times that are two, three hours long because that's just a once in a week or once in a month. Okay. Hope you enjoyed the interview. I certainly did. And I invite you to follow us for more and share with friends.

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